Exercise During Pregnancy – Good for Mom, and Baby Too

Exercise during pregnancyPhysical Therapist, Marianne Ryan explains how exercise during pregnancy is not only safe but good for both mom and baby. It can even make your baby smarter!

Pregnancy is a time to take extra-special care of yourself and many woman wonder if it is safe for them to exercise, especially for the baby. A growing number of studies reveal that the many benefits of exercise during pregnancy are not just for mom, but baby too!

In this post I will discuss some of the positive benefits of exercising while pregnant for both mother and baby.

What the Guidelines Say about Exercise during Pregnancy

The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology guidelines [(2002) (Reaffirmed 2009)] state that:

“In the absence of either medical or obstetrical complications, 30 minutes or more of moderate exercise on most, if not all, days of the week is recommended for pregnant women.”

Some of the things pregnant women should be careful about while exercising are becoming over-heated, dehydrated or engaging in high-impact activities (those that require jumping, running and some exercise classes). The guidelines do not recommend exercising in the supine position (lying on your back) after the first trimester, participating in contact sports, high-altitude exertion or scuba-diving while pregnant.

Exercise Benefits for Moms

  • Improved fitness levels and muscle tone to help you deal with pregnancy and labor
  • Improved overall circulation to help prevent varicose veins, leg cramps, swelling of the ankles, constipation and hemorrhoids.
  • Reduced risk of excess weight gain
  • Enhanced release of endorphins to help you cope with pain while pregnant and during labor
  • Fewer complications during labor  and delivery
  • Fewer C-sections
  • Reduced back and pelvic pain
  • Improved sleep patterns
  • Faster postpartum recovery and faster return to pre-pregnancy weight
  • Decreased risk of gestational diabetes and pre-eclampsia
  • Reduced risk of depression and pregnancy-related stress

Exercise Benefits for Baby - Smarter kids

Exercise during pregnancy smarter kidsOne study showed that moderate exercise during pregnancy might improve your baby’s brain development. At a presentation for the Society for Neuroscience annual meeting, San Diego (2013), researcher Elise Labonte-LeMoyne said ten-day old newborns of mothers who did 20 minutes of moderate cardiovascular exercises a day during pregnancy had more mature brains then babies whose mothers did not exercise.

And, looking further ahead, according to a study in the Journal of Pediatrics (December 1996) researcher James F. Clapp III, MD found that 5 years after birth, children of mothers who exercised during pregnancy scored higher on general intelligence tests (Wechsler scales) and oral language skills then the children of mothers who did not exercise.

To sum it up, there are many positive benefits to exercise during pregnancy, primarily that moms are healthier and babies are smarter!

In my book, Baby Bod®, I include an exercise program that is safe to follow throughout your entire pregnancy. Learning the Baby Bod® program prior to childbirth will help put your body in the best shape possible for labor and delivery and will give you a jump on your recovery after childbirth

If you would like to make an appointment for physical therapy treatment or get one-to-one advice on how to prepare for childbirth please fill out the “contact us” form on this page. The therapists at Marianne Ryan Physical Therapy are trained to provide you with safe and effective exercises and can offer hands-on treatment for pain relief.

I love to read your stories, thoughts and questions so please share them in the comments box below. And, if you’d like to receive future posts direct to your inbox then you can subscribe by using the subscription box on this page.



Marianne Ryan, PT

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Medical Disclaimer


Marianne RyanMARIANNE RYAN PT, OCS is a physical therapist and board-certified orthopedic clinical specialist. She is the owner and Clinical Director of MRPT Physical Therapy, and a spokesperson for the American Physical Therapy Association Media Corps. With more than 30 years' experience, she specializes in the treatment of the spine, pelvis and jaw, with particular emphasis on the treatment of prenatal and postpartum patients. She has taught physical therapy treatment and exercises for prenatal and postpartum women on the nurse midwifery program at Columbia University School of Nursing, and has also taught at the TMJ clinic at New York University Dental School. A much sought-after media guest, Marianne has appeared on dozens of national TV and radio shows, and has also been featured in Red Book, Fitness Magazine, USA Today, Shape Magazine and the Wall Street Journal. She was also featured in the film Drifting, a documentary about movement produced by the Tribeca Film Institute. Passionate about helping women to restore their stomachs after pregnancy and childbirth, Marianne is author of the book Baby Bod® - Turn Flab to Fab in 12 Weeks Flat (coming in 2015).

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